Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Skype + Founder of Wikipedia = Hen Hao

Two Fridays ago my class (and the upper school) had the privilege of webcasting with the founder of Wikipedia, Mr. Jimmy Wales. Mr. Wales was in Dalian for some big global business conference and found the time to talk with us via Skype. It was an incredible experience for my students, as well as for me. It was very interesting to listen to him talk and share how he came up with the idea of creating a constantly changing encyclopedia.

Some of my students watching Mr. Wales

Before we went to the webcast we brainstormed questions we could ask Mr. Wales. My students thought of some pretty thought provoking questions ranging anywhere from how did you come up with the idea to start Wikipedia to what are your other interests? During the video session three of my students got to speak with him live! They were so excited to ask their questions and did a great job.

Mr. Wales throwing up deuces

Some of the cool facts I learned about Wikipedia are:
~It's the research website with the highest hits, about 5 million per week.
~It is in over 100 languages
~There are over 3 million articles on the site, an average encyclopedia only has around 64,000!
~There are only 25 employees that work for Wikipedia.

The students were loving it!

Overall it was very enlightening to hear Mr. Wales goals for the future. He has a passion to get educational resources to all parts of the world. For example, he wants remote villages in Africa and women in the Middle East to be able to have access to educational resources. As you can imagine it is not an easy job, but that is what makes Wikipedia so cool. People that know the language can update it and pass the learning on. It is also a very difficult job since some regions don't have a written language. I was just amazed at how much this man knew and how humble he was. One important fact he said and that answered a question I had was that Wikipedia is not completely a valid source for a research paper. He said it is a good place to find background information, but not your in depth research. Just what a teacher wants to hear! I am loving my job and all the opportunities it provides.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Warning this is rather long...and just part one of my trip. Last weekend some friends and I decided to take part in a trip to PanJin. A lady, Fairy, organized it and we went along on the ride. PanJin is in the Liaoning Province and about a 4 hour drive. It is known for its reeds and the mysterious red beach. We started out bright and early on Saturday morning; we left at 7:15. We boarded the bus excited to be on our trip. There were 11 teachers from DAIS and 1 from the Canadian school in JinShiTan (like 10 minutes from our school). Two couples brought their adorable children, our total was 15 people. Driving there was fun as we hadn’t seen some of the surrounding area. The leader of our trip was Carol, a very sweet girl that works for Fairy. She asked if we wanted to stop to use the bathroom and we all said yes, but hesitated because let’s just say Chinese public bathrooms aren’t the best. We got to the stop and Carol asked us on the mic, “Does anyone need shitpaper?” (sorry mom and dad there is no better way to say it) Kara and I were the only ones that heard this and were dying laughing. I guess they only use toilet paper when they go #2…yuck. Anyways we are all pros at public bathrooms now so we had our own “shitpaper”. Let me just say I wouldn’t wish going in the public bathrooms in China on anyone…well maybe some people, but that’s a whole other story. We all went potty and found some yummy Chinese treats(sarcasm, although I did find some chocolate filled koala bears!), Kara even found Red Bull! Back to the bus we went.

Some of the scenery on our way to PanJin

We got there about 4 hours later. All the kids, Matthew, Isaac, and Sarah, were fabulous on the trip. I don’t think I would have been so well behaved when I was their age. Our hotel was very elaborate. We waited while Carol checked us in and then went up to our rooms. Walking up to our rooms I almost hit my head in the doorway, it was so short! The rooms were nice, comparable to a Holiday Inn in the States. The bonuses in the room were nice little “presents” available, such as oils, pretzels, robes, etc. We were all excited when a maid came in and took them from us, I guess they figured since we weren’t business men we wouldn’t use them. We put our stuff down in our room and headed to eat lunch. Lunch was so good; we ate traditional style (think Italian Family style in the States). They put all the food on a huge lazy susan and then you spin it around and get what you want. They had some pretty interesting food; I wasn’t as daring as some were. They served us so much food it was crazy!

Our Hotel...

Kara checking out the presents

Lunch on the first day...

After lunch we went reed picking to make our zongzis. A zongzi is like a Chinese tamale. We drove to the reeds area and got out of the bus to see the crabs and reeds. We were all thinking they were going to be real crabs, no they were just huge statues of crabs. For some reason the Chinese have this fascination with statues of large animals. Crabs, geese, seals, you name it I have seen it somewhere in China. We had to wait for a boat to take us to the reed picking area. All 15 of us fit on this little boat, let me tell you it was low riding! We went along the river slowly and were like tourist taking pictures of everything.

On the way, I love this picture!


Pretty stream surrounded by reeds

Once we arrived at the reeds area and were let loose to pick. It was pretty funny because we really didn’t know what we were looking for to pick. We spent about 2 hours lost in the abyss of reeds. At one point we were walking through them, no path or boardwalk just following the person in front of us. Thank goodness it wasn’t like that one the stilted boardwalk! We were all joking how this is another example of OIC (only in China). OIC would you find a place to pick reeds that doesn’t have any ropes or railings up to protect you from falling off the boardwalk you are walking on 7 feet above the ground. It would be shut down in a second in the States because of safety issues. We finished picking and headed back for more food.

Kara and I after climbing to the top of a lookout

Dinner was just as good as lunch, except more food. They made us crabs, fish, and duck. The duck was delicious, crabs were hard to eat because there really wasn’t much meat in them. They showed us the live crabs before we ate so we knew they were fresh. That is also why they keep the bones and beak on the other animals. After we were all gorged with dinner it was time for the hot springs. That is for another post…

Fish anyone?

Guess it was good :)

How about some duck?

Zai Jian,

Mei mei (this is my new name when playing basketball, because Megan is too hard to say? I just hope it doesn’t mean stupid American!!)


Chinglish is what we call signs or other public notices translated into English. The translation is off or doesn't make any sense. I must say I appreciate the effort to help us foreigners know the point they are trying to get across. Here are some Chinglish signs I have seen so far...

I saved my favorite for last!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A day in the life of...

I realize I haven’t posted in awhile. Sorry I get so busy and always think “I need to blog this” and then get home and start doing something else. I am still loving it here and learning more and more everyday. Over the last couple weeks it has started to sink in that I am really living in China. I know that sounds stupid, but for the first month it didn’t feel real. Everyday living here has made it more real. I am getting to know my colleagues more each day, getting better at mandarin ( I still have a long way to go), familiarizing myself with the locations of important places/stores, getting organized in my classroom and planning, and spending time with as many locals as I can trying to understand the Chinese culture more.

It is funny because although I am half a world away, some things are the same. My daily routine is pretty much what I would do in the States, except I’m in China. Here is an average day:

5:00 AM –Run with Sarah to the beach and back. (only Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays)

6:00 AM –Shower, do quiet time, call people back home, and/or check my Facebook J

7:00 AM- Head over to school, it is about a 5 minute walk. I love walking there everyday it is so peaceful and beautiful.

8:45 AM- Welcome my students in at the front of the building. Since our school is relatively small we all wait out in the courtyard and greet them and then walk our classes up to our rooms. I love this time of the day because a bunch of the kids and I play games, like old school hand patting games (Miss Mary Black, etc). We all teach each other the ones we know, it is interesting to say the least.

3:45 PM- Walk the students out to the courtyard and wave bye as they leave in their drivers’ cars or school bus.

3:45-5:00 PM- Work on school stuff or attend meetings, it really depends on my day. On Wednesdays I have my Mandarin lessons and Thursday I teach the little ones soccer.

5:00 PM – Head home and either make dinner or most likely go to the cafĂ© for dinner. The food is decent and super cheap. A bunch of us normally go and unwind from the day.

After dinner I either do school work, hang out with friends, or go into KaiFiQu. KaiFiQu is the town close to us that has TONS of shopping. I normally go in on Tuesday nights for grocery shopping and dinner and then on Thursday nights to play basketball with Jon, Joe, and Kiko.

Bedtime is really whenever I get tired.

Sorry I know that is probably really boring to most of you, but just wanted to give you an idea of what a day for me is like. Of course the weekends aren’t as scheduled and are much more “China”. Which leads me to my next post on Panjin.

I love learning the language, it is really interesting. The tones make in incredibly hard, but I am determined to learn it. Last weekend this woman told me my Chinese was great! I only asked her how much it was and then said thank you, but hey it’s a start! I figured if someone was living in the US I would expect them to learn English, so why should it be different for me. I am living in their country; I want to learn their language. Remind me of this when I am ready to give up!

Here are some pictures from the last couple weeks.

One of the minority groups dancing in the square in KaiFiQu

More dancing!

Sarah and I trying to bargain for some handmade hats!

This was at the ATM, I think they meant to say receipt

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What I learned this week

Some things I learned this week...

1. Don't write Koreans' names in red. To them it is bad luck because when they have their funerals the name of the person that died is written in red.

2. Don't assume what you are eating is chicken meat. It could be chicken stomach, I'm just saying.

3. Giving your phone number in Chinese is a long and tedious process, they are 11 numbers...and in Mandarin it takes longer.

4. Koreans do not like to be labeled as English Language Learners. If their child is in the ELL program they might not get invited to parties or coffee outings.

5. The Chinese don't really say "how are you?". They only use it when they haven't seen people in a LONG time.

I'm sure I could keep going on and on...I'll keep this short and sweet today!

Zai Jian (bye)